Florida's GOP, no more advancing presidential primary

The Republican National Committee will crack down much harder on renegade states like Florida should they again schedule early presidential contests in an attempt to flex more political muscle.

At last week's Republican National Convention, Florida only seated 50 voting delegates instead of its allotted 99 as punishment for holding its primary on Jan. 31. In a last-minute reprieve of sorts, the other 49 were allowed to attend but not vote.

The committee further penalized the Sunshine State by revoking 160 guest passes and pushing the delegation out of its usual front-row seats. Guest passes are valuable tools for raising money and rewarding the party faithful.

Furthermore, the delegation was housed some 30 miles away from the Tampa convention site at the Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, described as "political purgatory" by one Florida attendee.

Bus transportation problems exacerbated this situation, leading to some lengthy delays, missed events and major headaches.

Four other calendar-jumping states suffered similar fates. Florida endured a similar penalty in 2008.

This stands in stark contrast with this week's Democratic National Convention, where Florida's delegation -- 363 strong -- are headquartered in one of Charlotte's top hotels a short stroll to the celebration.

Florida's Republican Party stalwarts should not have to endure this again. And likely won't.

Last week, the national party's Rules Committee approved draconian new rules punishing states that advance presidential primaries or caucuses before March 6.

Only the traditional four opening states -- Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada -- are allowed to hold contests between Feb. 1 and March 6.

Should Florida's GOP-controlled Legislature break party rules again in 2016, the delegation would be slashed to just 10, the minimum required to even participate. Since prior rules failed to dissuade rogue states, the Rules Committee decided to get tough.

In another rule change, should any of the four kickoff states schedule primaries and caucuses earlier to leap-frog rules violators, they would no longer be subjected to delegate loss. In reaction to Florida's calendar change, South Carolina shifted its primary to retain its status as the first Southern state to vote. South Carolina lost half its voting delegation as well.

Florida's GOP elite should not deny party members their rightful place at the national convention. The stakes are too high now. The state will not lose its reputation as a key battleground for the presidency.